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So aliens show up on earth in the mid 1800s (or modernish humans but with FTL show up at an alien world w/ equivalent tech level). They want to share some of their advanced technology with us (not healthcare, they're biologically too different. The cure for their common cold would probably kill us and vice versa) and one of the things they want to offer us is remote communication.

Assuming the technology for display screens isn't super far advanced from what we can now do (so no holograms or "magical" technology) what would the best way for them to help proliferate displays and cameras and an information transfer network.

For TV/Displays I'd imagine there'd be no need to go through a CRT phase, unless there was some significant advantage to creating them that was a significantly lower hurdle for a low-tech society to cover.

Similarly would wireless cell networks be easy enough to "teach" to go straight to out of the gate, or would there need to be wired infrastructure first? There might be a fledgling signal network (see telegraph in actual history)

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  • $\begingroup$ So if I'm following your question correctly, the aliens are giving humans the phones and towers, and the humans just need to understand how to work the stuff. (Or is their goal to push technology forward as fast as possible?) Where does repair and power come into play? How do humans built new ones? $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Jan 17 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ keep in mind radiation and radioactivity had not even been discovered yet. If you really want to advance science how about nuclear physics. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 17 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ In other words, what time interval do you see as stagnation in physics, chemistry and technology which could be shortened by the out-of-the-world teachers? Because as far as I can tell, the major limitation in the speed of development of physical sciences and technology was the need to teach them to younger generations. From the mid-18th to the mid-20th century every single generation of physicists, chemists and engineers made tremedous advances over they parents. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 17 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly how does this differ from the proliferation of TV and cell phones in 3rd/4th world countries? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 17 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus More they're teaching how to make them and bootstrapping the industry to be able to produce them. They might be able to provide a few "examples" but don't have resources or production facilities on their ship to just "give" any large quantities of anything. $\endgroup$ – aslum Jan 19 at 16:12
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For TV/Displays I'd imagine there'd be no need to go through a CRT phase, unless there was some significant advantage to creating them that was a significantly lower hurdle for a low-tech society to cover.

You are grossly underestimating the amount of technology needed to manufacture integrated circuits. In our mid 1800 a vacuum tube is at reach, and in fact it was made, and CRT technology "just" needs to have all the pieces of the puzzle put together: vacuum tubes for the electronic part, an e-beam emitter, a beam steering and a screen with suitable phosphors.

If you want to go flat screen or mobile phones you need to have all the technology to make LED and IC available to the point it was in the late 1990's at least. It's about 150 years of development in material science, chemistry, physics and communication theory. How do you explain a quantum tunneling junction or a MOSFET to people who still don't know how an atom is made?

Keep in mind that the graphic processor of a state of the art Android smartphone built with the technology we had in the 70's would be as big as two car spots in the parking lot out there. And we already had transistors back then.

Overall you need a massive leap in the understanding of all those fields if you want to make television and mobile phones widespread. And that leap has to come by your alien teaching all of that.

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    $\begingroup$ You are also talking about a massive leap in precision engineering, they simply lack the manufacturing techniques to make an integrated circuit even if you have them detailed plans. +1 for pointing out how limited their knowledge of physics is at this point. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 17 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly the sort of consideration that I was looking for. $\endgroup$ – aslum Jan 17 at 14:24
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Cellphones would be easy - look at subsaharan Africa. Cell networks were for years rather more popular, with better and more varied services (compared to Europe, neverming USA), precisely because the landlines were extremely underdeveloped and were unnecessary anymore, and cell networks are easier to build.

Barring external hindrances (e.g. king or the church being against), expect similar development, if the prices are affordable for the public (which in the 1800s means it has to be rather low).

However, the BIG problem is the lack of electric grid, and unless your aliens somehow magically solve this issue, it will render both cellphones and TV irrelevant.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, definitely to the lack of grid, but do you seriously imagine that's all there is to manufacturing a mobile phone? Just the rare earth metals needed to manufacture the ICs weren't discovered back then, let alone purifying them in sufficient quantity to be useful. You MIGHT be able to repurpose glassmaking processes to refine silicon in bulk, but even that is doubtful $\endgroup$ – nzaman Jan 17 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ @nzaman I think the OP did not meant manufacturing, but giving the phones (and towers), maybe by providing autonomous phone and CRT factories. Otherwise you need decades of sustained investment (see South Korea), fortunately already the population is already big enough and literate enough by middle 1800s. $\endgroup$ – Radovan Garabík Jan 17 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ He's talking about creating LCDs vis-a-vis CRTs. I think manufacturing capacity is included in the infrastructure upgrade. All the aliens will provide is technical drawings and engineering classes $\endgroup$ – nzaman Jan 17 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ WRT grid, cell phones & TVs could easily be powered by solar. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 17 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Solar panel engineering is actually fairly complex, as is the battery tech required to store the power and the electronics for the inverter and control. 30+ years of hard development, minimum before you'd have a working setup. In that period you could have run the cables several times for a fraction of the cost. $\endgroup$ – Corey Jan 17 at 22:57

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